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Mediating the Clash of Cultures

The Institute of Advanced Study (IAS) is hosting a seminar entitled "Mediating the Clash of Cultures" from 3pm to 6pm on Tuesday 19 January 2010 in the IAS Seminar Room, Millburn House. Leading the seminar will be Dr Rita Wilson (Monash University), with the participation of colleagues from Italian, English, German Studies, Classics, History, the Centre for Applied Linguistics and Theatre and Performance Studies.

The event is free of charge but registration is required as places are limited. Refreshments will be provided. Please contact Dr Annunziata Videtta: to register or if you have any questions about the event.

Mediating the clash of cultures in transnational narratives

Transnational narrative is conspicuously conscious of the ambivalent capacities of translation – to challenge the authority of both 'original' and 'secondary' literary traditions; to guarantee and, at the same time, undermine ‘authenticity’; to double, defer, or displace authorship. Cast between cultures, transnational writing is located between languages as well, whether languages in the conventional sense of the term or different modes of discourse operating within and drawn from discrete polysystems.

In the Italian context, such narratives often articulate themselves as subtle sites of resistance to national (and European) repressive migration policies, as they deal with new forms of social interaction, cultural exchange and hybridity. Amara Lakhous, a contemporary Algerian-Italian writer, living in Italy and writing in both Arabic and Italian, is a good example of a group of writers who, in attempting to navigate between languages and social contexts associated with their languages, have raised important questions regarding identity construction for transnational beings.

This paper will examine how his 2006 novel, Scontro di civiltà per un ascensore a piazza Vittorio (Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio) brings both linguistic and cultural translation into play as processes potentiating encounter and transformation. Through a reading of the novel informed in part by contemporary Translation Studies theory, it will be argued that transnational narrative not only transforms the transposed literary tradition but introduces into the centre of a different polysystem peripheral elements that serve both to renew literary language and literary traditions and to recognize the value of difference.